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The 12 Munros of the North Glen Shiel Ridge

The 12 Munros of the North Glen Shiel Ridge


Postby Mountainlove » Mon Jul 15, 2013 7:16 pm

Route description: Five Sisters of Kintail

Munros included on this walk: A' Chralaig, Aonach Meadhoin, Carn Ghluasaid, Ciste Dhubh, Mullach Fraoch-choire, Sail Chaorainn, Saileag, Sgurr a'Bhealaich Dheirg, Sgurr Fhuaran, Sgurr na Carnach, Sgurr na Ciste Duibhe, Sgurr nan Conbhairean

Date walked: 15/07/2013

Time taken: 21.5 hours

Distance: 40.6 km

Ascent: 4335m

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4 months ago I had the idea to walk the full north Glen Shiel ridge in a day or two. 12 Munros over 38 km with over 4300, of ascent. I tried to find some information about it, but most people seem to do them in 2 or 3 days.

4 months passed until a spell of perfect weather made me back my bags and head up north. The key to success was a very light backpack. Anyone who ever carried a heavy backpack over multiple Munros, knows it is a killer, so I had to pack light. Using my normal day pack I packed my backpacking tent, a light fleece sleeping bag (bad idea :( :( ), a self inflating sleeping mat, thick socks (as I don’t like cold feet at night) a fleece jacket, long yoga pants (night time wear) , light camping stove, 2 liters of water and food. It was all minimalist and the weight of the foot and water seem to made the biggest impact.

The hot weather forecast only proved one problem- water. As I I did not wanted to carry more than 2 liters of water with me, I had to relay on burns who unfortunately are sparse and non existent after the 6th Munro on route.Even though I would have loved to try to walk the route over a day, I had to be realistic. Walking a monster route alone on a hot summers day is risky enough, doing it without enough water, just seemed mad (even for my standards). 8) 8) 8)

I left on Wednesday after work and after a 4h drive arrived at the wild camping spot behind the Cluanie. I expected a bad midgy infected area, but a breeze kept the midgies at bay the whole weekend. The celebrations were short lived, as the midgy was replaced by its evil colleague the cleg :shock: :shock: :shock: . Is there anything worse out than a persistent cleg? After successfully killing good knows how many clegs while trying to cook my dinner, I retired to my tent for a good nights sleep.

I had not set the alarm clock, as I decided a good sleep was more important than a early rise and with a good 10h sleep, I set off from the car park at Lundie by 9:30.
The morning was already a belter, hot and sticky with hardly a breeze in the air.. The path from the car park was easy to follow and climbed steeply up the hill. The views behind me were lovely and Ben Nevis could be seen in the far distance. Despite the hot weather I made good progress, but the first Munro (Carn Ghluasaid) was a disappointment...a round grassy lump, but the views made up for the missing wow factor. Sitting down with the knowledge that I still had to climb 11 more, I had a snack break and made my way towards Sgurr nan Conbhairean and Sail Chaorainn following the given paths. It was pretty easy going and I reached the 3rd Munro within 3.5 hours of setting off from my car and was optimistic how easy it all seemed.

Having to climb the second Munro twice is a bit annoying, but the best way forward and took only half an hour...would that count as one Munro climbed twice? I wasnt sure. Reaching the Cairn I picked up my bag which I left (no point carrying weight if you had to return anyway) and had some water. The next stage of the walk would lead me down to the bealach. It was a 5km walk to the next Munro, dropping just over 300m before I had to climb another 400 to reach the next Munro (A'Chralaig) . Walking down was easy enough- nice and gentle but I started to get really short in water. There was only a loch, not my preferred place to fill up water supplies, but with no other option I threw in a water purification table (better save than sorry).The water tasted stale and pretty bad, better just keep on going and keep it as an emergency supply, until I reached a burn with fresh water. I climbed up the sloop stopping frequently and finally reached the next summit of A'Chralaig. The views of the remaining Munros stretched out in front me, a daunting distance and getting my map out I took my bearing. The 3 sisters were clearly to be seen in the distance...but they seemed so far away!! :o

Looking around me I was wondering why I had not come across a single soul since I had left. I do enjoy the solitude on hills, but the odd other hillwalker always gives a nice reassurance that there would be help if anything unforeseen would happen. But it seemed that I was alone. I had another bite to eat (I made sure my energy levels were staying up) and I enjoyed the sunshine and views before making my way towards Stob Coire na Cralaig, which is the splitting point between the 5th Munro (Mullach Fraoch-choire) and the way down to the 6th Munro (Ciste Dhubh). As I had to retrace my steps, I left my bag on the high bealach and equipped with my camera I made the journey up Mullach Fraoch-choire.

Mullach Fraoch-choire is a fantastic Munro. An exposed ridge gives the option to scramble and some fantastic views in the valley below. It reminded me a bit about the Aonach Eagach (on a small scale) and when I reached the top I had to drag myself away...this was a beauty! On my walk back just before I reached the point were I had left my backpack, I saw the first person of the day. It turned out to be David from Walkhighlands and while sharing some stories and walkhighland through the grapevine gossip, he offered me a sip of Whisky from his flask (lucky me) :D :D I think it would have been pointless to ask him if he wanted to share some stale loch water. :? 8)

We said our good byes and I made my way down to the valley floor...a steep drop over 600m in height :( :( The view up Ciste Dhubh looked pretty hard, but finally I found fresh water which I drunk straight from the stream.
I stopped for a while, but the force of the clegs and a few midges (they seemed so harmless in comparison), made me reach out for my ultra strong insect repellant I brought along. It is nice to read that something is tested in some jungle...but can the producers please also test it in the bogs of Scotland. Even with my own eyes in tears (note to self dont rub eyes) I watched clegs made more than 3 attempts to land on my skin, until they decided to use my bum as a target. At that time I was glad that I was alone again, as a female cursing and randomly slapping her own behind, while climbing a hill with a red face, would have worried quite a few people. :crazy: :shock: 8)

Now as point of warning if you should do the same route...the down and upclimb towards Ciste Dhubh is hard going, specially after a long hot day. I had looked at different routes, but towards the end and with Davids advise just ended up climbing the hill in a straight line up. It would be ok to do as a first Munro, but with over 5 Munros and 10h of walking behind me, I started to feel tired. Finally after what seemed like ages ,I reached the top. Deer were grazing quietly on the slopes around me and when I reached the final top of Ciste Dhubh I sat down to take it all in.In the distance I could see the bealach (Bealach Choinich) I wanted to stay the night and was glad that the idea and distance proved to be the right decision. The climb down Ciste Dhubh is a boggy event and even with the dry weather, I managed to stand ankle deep in bog at one point. I reached the Bealach after 12.5h of walking and was pretty happy to stay for the night and some much needed dinner.

The bealach was pretty, apart from a few deer in the distance no single soul was to be seen. I put up my tent and after a few awkward attempts to wash, half dressed in a watery peat bog , I decided it was ridiculous and opted for a skinny dipping session. Although not before making sure that I was really alone :-) The experience was quite liberating especially the naked run back to the tent to dry off 8) . If Billy Connelly can have a naked dance in cities, I can certainly do the same up deserted hills. :roll: :lol: :lol: But needless to say, I was glad to be back in my clothes...finally feeling clean and refreshed.
The night in my tent was cold and uncomfortable and I cursed myself for having taken only the fleece sleeping bag and no pillow :shock: :o :( . But regardless of everything I drifted in and out of sleep and felt good (if not a bit stiff around my neck and shoulders) during the next morning.

I had packed my tent away and had some breakfast, when I saw a women in the distance on her way up to Ciste Dhubh...I wanted to wave, but she was too far away. I watched her on her way up before making my way up Aonach Meadhoin. On the way up, I stopped at one of the burns to fill my bottles and forced myself to drink another liter of water...after all the next 6 Munros had no more water supplies. Climbing up the Munro was hard going. Sore feed and cold muscles together with the combination that I am not a morning exercise person, made it a struggle and my motivation was pretty low, as I started to feel tired again. The views towards the Cluanie Inn and to be able to spot my other tent, which I had left at the camping spot, cheered me up again and with the chant 'You and do it, you can do it' I moved on. The other Munros still seemed distant, but a lot closer than the previous day. I finally got my 'second wind' and from there I moved on swiftly, just as well, as the walk towards Sgurr a Bhaelaich Dheirg was long with lots of little peaks to climb. From the top Saileag looked pretty easy top do, but again not very spectacular as it was another grassy lump, which did not impress me much, but the views made up for everything else again.

Celebrating the 9th Munro on top of Saileag and the completion of the 3 brothers, I looked ahead and the remaining 3 seemed for the first time doable. There is always a slight doubt when you do these long routes and when realization hits, that you can actually complete them, it is quite an amazing feeling and a great motivation too. I really needed that motivation, as the walk between Saileag and Sgurr nan Spainteach (not a Munro) towards Sgurr na Ciste Duibheis is a constant up and down, zapping your energy. Just like the day before I was alone on the hills and even though I love scrambling, I left the scrambling routes out. It was a shame, but even the lightest backpack will feel heavy at some point and with feeling the fatigue in my legs I did not really trusted myself not to make a mistake. Climbing down from Sgurr na Ciste Duibhe towards Sgurr na Carnach, was lovely. I personally loved the 'stone wall' and a 'mini mountain' I saw on the way. The spectacular views were also amazing. On the top I met a man and a woman who were equally surprised to see me, as I was seeing them. They also had thought they were the only ones on the hills that day. Stopping to have a chat and a bite to eat, we enjoyed the views together, before I set off to the final Munro Sgurr Fhuaran. It raised steep and high rising up in front of me, but in comparison of the whole route looked so easy. With hardly any stops I made my way up and when I reached the top with the views towards Loch Duich a big grin spread across my face...I did it. Giving myself a clap on the back I took some photos, but looking down to the valley floor reminded me that the walk was not yet over...first at all I had to get down.

I had choosen the shoulder of the mountain for a decent route and a faint path showed me, that I was not the only one who opted for that route. The slope was relentless and a knee killer. Changing the leading leg down regularly I made my way down...at one point on my backside, as by that time a sore bum was better than sore knees. Eventually I made it to the flat (yeah) field and crossing the burn as I could not be bothered looking for the bridge, I made it to the main road after 21.5h of walking.

I had send good knows how many prayers that a kind soul would stop to give me a lift back and feeling full of hope I put my thumb out. It would take another 2 km of walking ( and silently cursing everyone who dared to drive past me :lol: .) until a car stopped :D :D The relieve was incredible and blessing the driver, I walked towards the car. He asked me to jump in and it turned out that it was Dougie B from Walkhighlands, who had also completed 3 Munros further up north and was on his way back. Dougie if you read this...many many thanks again for the lift!!! You are an angle!!! :clap: :clap: :clap: :clap: :clap: :clap:

On our way to the my car we drove past another man a while later a woman with 2 dogs who were also hitch hiking. Dougie decided to help out the woman and her dogs after he dropped me off at my car and I made my way back to pick up the first walker...after all hillwalkers have to help each other! :thumbup: :thumbup:
Dropping the other walker back to his caravan, I drove back to my tent and did what I had been dreaming about for the past few hours...a swim in the burn followed by a rather warm beer from my car...life does not get any better.


North Glen Shiel Route.jpg


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The start of the walk with Loch Cluanie in the background

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A long walk...can you spot the 3 sisters in the background? The 3 pointy peaks...the right one is the last Munro of the walk

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Sgurr nan Conbhairean from Sail Chaorainn

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A grouse

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The bealach between Sgurr nan Conbhairean and
A' Chralaig

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View towards the 3 sisters again..they are getting closer

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The ridge (my little Aonach Eagach ) from Mullach Fraoch-choire

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The start of the ridge

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Cairn hugging

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Chill time on Mullach Fraoch-choire

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The long walk down from Mullach Fraoch-choire taken on Ciste Dhubh

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View from Ciste Dhubh

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Sleep time on the bealach

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During the morning, looking back to the bealach were I spend the night (from Aonach Meadhoin)

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The 5 sisters coming into view...

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The stone bridge

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10!!! on Sgurr na Ciste Duibhe

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The mini mountain...would love that rock in the garden!!

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The last Munro- Sgurr Fhuaran

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The view back from Sgurr Fhuaran


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The walk down from Sgurr Fhuaran...no fun at all and a real knee killer
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Mountainlove
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Re: The 12 Munros of the North Glen Shiel Ridge

Postby weaselmaster » Mon Jul 15, 2013 7:25 pm

Great walk, fantastic looking weather for it. respect for tackling them all in a one-er :thumbup:
i was up there the week before and was surprised by the scarcity of other walkers all week too - this is Kintail for heaven's sake, not the ends of the earth
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Re: The 12 Munros of the North Glen Shiel Ridge

Postby GillC » Mon Jul 15, 2013 7:33 pm

Fantastic epic trip there

"At that time I was glad that I was alone again, as a female cursing and randomly slapping her own behind, while climbing a hill with a red face, would have worried quite a few people. :crazy: :shock: 8) "

Totally empathise with you,,my map was doing a lot of swatting and skelping of the vicious beasts last week too.

I harbour secret notions that I could do this wild camping thing and disappear into the hills for a day or two...maybe next year lol

Well done :clap:
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Re: The 12 Munros of the North Glen Shiel Ridge

Postby gammy leg walker » Mon Jul 15, 2013 7:38 pm

Awesome effort Mountainlove,just wish I had been there for your skinny dipping. :wink:
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Re: The 12 Munros of the North Glen Shiel Ridge

Postby pigeon » Mon Jul 15, 2013 7:48 pm

gammy leg walker wrote:Awesome effort Mountainlove,just wish I had been there for your skinny dipping. :wink:
Tut tut gammy :lol: :lol:
Great effort ML,a fine set of hills these and a great way to do them,well done :clap:
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Re: The 12 Munros of the North Glen Shiel Ridge

Postby gman » Mon Jul 15, 2013 8:46 pm

Mountainlove wrote:4 months ago I had the idea to walk the full north Glen Shiel ridge in a day or two. 12 Munros over 38 km with over 4300, of ascent. I tried to find some information about it, but most people seem to do them in 2 or 3 days.


I'm not like 'most people' either - I did them in 4 days. On 4 separate trips :lol: . Great stuff!
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Re: The 12 Munros of the North Glen Shiel Ridge

Postby ceaser » Mon Jul 15, 2013 8:48 pm

well done ML ,fantastic walk and report :clap:
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Re: The 12 Munros of the North Glen Shiel Ridge

Postby Mountainlove » Mon Jul 15, 2013 9:05 pm

weaselmaster wrote:Great walk, fantastic looking weather for it. respect for tackling them all in a one-er :thumbup:
i was up there the week before and was surprised by the scarcity of other walkers all week too - this is Kintail for heaven's sake, not the ends of the earth


Many thanks!! I am surprised that you saw so little people as well...as you said it is Kintail after all and an amazing area :)

GillC wrote:Fantastic epic trip there
"At that time I was glad that I was alone again, as a female cursing and randomly slapping her own behind, while climbing a hill with a red face, would have worried quite a few people. :crazy: :shock: 8) "
Totally empathise with you,,my map was doing a lot of swatting and skelping of the vicious beasts last week too.
I harbour secret notions that I could do this wild camping thing and disappear into the hills for a day or two...maybe next year lol
Well done :clap:


Oh you have to try it...it takes hill walking to a completely different level and it feels special to sleep alone amonst our ehm loved ones :lol:

gammy leg walker wrote:Awesome effort Mountainlove,just wish I had been there for your skinny dipping. :wink:

Tut tut from me as well :lol: :lol: Just reminded me not to post were I will be going next :lol: But many thanks!!

@ Pigeon...many thanks!!

@ Gman...if that idea would not have popped into my head I would have done the same...although the brothers and sisters are pretty easy as a group together :)

@ Ceaser...many thanks!!
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Re: The 12 Munros of the North Glen Shiel Ridge

Postby simon-b » Mon Jul 15, 2013 9:05 pm

A really excellent two days, ML. It's good to see the spirit of Glen Shiel and Kintail is alive and well, with all those offers of lifts.
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Re: The 12 Munros of the North Glen Shiel Ridge

Postby Bruno » Mon Jul 15, 2013 10:54 pm

Brilliant, ML!! Really enjoyed that report. I took 2 trips to pull these off!
Well done!! :clap: :clap:
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Re: The 12 Munros of the North Glen Shiel Ridge

Postby goth_angel » Tue Jul 16, 2013 1:49 pm

Oh to be that fit, that sounds absolutely exhausting but you couldn't have picked a better couple of days for it.

Only done the first 3 of these (great walk) and expect to need 3 more trips to do the rest of them!
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Re: The 12 Munros of the North Glen Shiel Ridge

Postby Graeme D » Tue Jul 16, 2013 2:54 pm

Gordon Bennett man!!!!!!!! :shock: :clap:
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Re: The 12 Munros of the North Glen Shiel Ridge

Postby haringit » Tue Jul 16, 2013 6:32 pm

I did A' Chralaig, Mullach Fraoch-choire and Ciste Dhubh in a days outing, and I agree with you, the climb to Ciste Dhubh is a killer! :twisted: Amazing walk!
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Re: The 12 Munros of the North Glen Shiel Ridge

Postby tomyboy73 » Tue Jul 16, 2013 7:11 pm

well done, massive walk and very brave to camp out there yourself :clap:
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Re: The 12 Munros of the North Glen Shiel Ridge

Postby Tomsie » Tue Jul 16, 2013 9:08 pm

Well done super :clap: :clap:

WINNER
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